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Research Prominence

William Leggett receives prestigious lifetime achievement award

Dr. William Leggett.

William Leggett, professor emeritus in the Department of Biology and Queen's 17th principal, has received the H. Ahlstrom Lifetime Achievement Award from the Early Life History Section of the American Fisheries Society for his contributions to the fields of larval fish ecology.

The American Fisheries Society is the biggest association of professional aquatic ecologists in the world, with over 9,000 members worldwide.

"œIt feels good to be singled out by such large group of people who I respect so highly," says Dr. Leggett. "œI didn'™t expect to receive this award so it'™s a big honour and thrill to get it."

Dr. Leggett'™s research focuses on the dynamics of fish populations and his work as a biologist and a leader in education has been recognized nationally and internationally. A membership in the Order of Canada, a fellowship from the Royal Society of Canada, and the Award of Excellence in Fisheries Education are just some of the awards he has received for outstanding contributions to graduate education and marine science.

The Early Life History Section of the American Fisheries Society recognized Dr. Leggett'™s "œexceptional contributions to the understanding of early life history of fishes that has inspired the careers of a number of fisheries scientists worldwide and has led to major progress in fish ecology and studies of recruitment dynamics."

The award was recently presented in Quebec City at the 38th annual Larval Fish Conference held in conjunction with the 144th annual meeting of the American Fisheries Society.

 

Ontario invests in research and innovation

The Government of Ontario is providing $4.3 million in funding for four Queen’s research projects.

The Ontario government is funding Queen’s research to help support the development of homegrown ideas, products, and technologies. Four multidisciplinary Queen’s projects have received a total of $4.3 million in funding through two grant initiatives: the Ontario Research Fund and the Early Researcher Awards program. The funding will be used to cover research operations and infrastructure, ensuring Ontario’s researchers have access to the latest technologies, equipment, and talent.

"Ontario’s universities, including Queen’s, play a key role in advancing research that matters to Ontarians," says Betsy Donald, Associate Vice-Principal (Research). "Thanks to our Government partners, our researchers have the tools they need to further develop these important research questions."

Ontario Research Fund

Pascale Champagne (Civil and Chemical Engineering; Chemistry) and her colleagues have received $3.9 million in funding through Ontario Research Fund-Research Excellence (ORF-RE) for their project titled, "Integrated approaches to characterize, detect, and treat Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs) in the aquatic environments of Ontario."

CECs are chemicals and other contaminants that are found in consumer products and waste streams and may pose hazards to human health and aquatic ecosystems. Nevertheless, these health and environmental impacts are poorly understood, and CECs remain largely unregulated in Ontario.

Through their project, Dr. Champagne and her team will investigate the origins, transport, and effect of three broad classes of CECs, namely microbial, nanoparticles, and industrial and agricultural products in key sub-systems of the water cycle, such as watershed recharge and runoff zones, recycling systems for agriculture and aquaculture, wastewater and drinking water systems, septic systems, and surface water ecosystems. The team will also work to develop new technologies for the detection and treatment of CECs in these key sub-systems.

This research will lead to the development and commercialization of sensor prototypes for rapid detection of pathogens, bacteria, and toxic biological products as well as treatment technologies for the removal of CECs. Tools created through the study will also innovate engineering consulting services to support investigation and remediation of CEC-contaminated sites in Ontario jurisdictions.

The project is supported by a large consortium of industry, policy researchers, and municipal government partners who are contributing a further $951,000 as well as substantial in-kind contributions that will increase project funding to $11.9 million. As end users, the consortium of key stakeholders will facilitate uptake of research outcomes into industrial and municipal processes to affect real-time change.

The project is an initiative of the Contaminants of Emerging Concern Research Excellence Network (CEC-REN) at Queen’s, an interdisciplinary initiative focused on the detection and treatment of emerging contaminants in the natural and built environment that pose environmental and human health risks.

Early Researcher Awards

Three Queen’s research projects have received Early Researcher Awards valued at $140,000 each:

Joseph Bramante (Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy)

Project title: Neutron stars as thermal dark matter detectors

Description: Dark matter has a significant impact on stars and galaxies yet remains a mysterious entity. One of the primary goals of modern physics is to understand dark matter's interactions with visible particles like the proton and electron. Dr. Bramante and his team recently discovered that when dark matter falls into neutron stars, it heats them to infrared temperatures. Now, they are investigating how dark matter interacts with the superdense nuclear fluid in neutron stars. These findings will help transform neutron stars into world class dark matter detectors.

Robert Colautti (Biology)

Project title: Genetics of range expansion in ticks and tick-borne pathogens

Description: Global trade and anthropogenic changes to the environment can facilitate the spread of problematic species (e.g. weeds, pests, diseases). In Ontario, the deer tick (a.k.a. blacklegged tick, Ixodes scapularis) has rapidly risen in abundance, increasing risk of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. Dr. Colautti and his team are developing a new database and field protocols to reconstruct the geographic spread of deer ticks in eastern Ontario and to identify ecological factors that impact pathogen prevalence. Study results will inform strategies to mitigate exposure to tick-borne pathogens, helping reduce future cases of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses in Ontario.

Jason Gallivan (Psychology)

Project title: Functional mapping and enhancement of brain network function through multi-site neurostimulation

Description: Deep brain stimulation (DBS) was introduced two decades ago as a revolutionary treatment for Parkinson’s disease (PD). Since then, it has been trialed for numerous other neurological illnesses, including Alzheimer’s disease and depression. Despite its initial promise, DBS has failed, in all but a few cases, to improve patient outcomes, reflecting our poor understanding of how it operates and impacts the function of whole-brain networks. Dr. Gallivan and his team will use a multi-disciplinary approach to map how DBS changes the activity of whole-brain networks in vivo. Subsequently, these findings will be used to help improve DBS efficacy.

For more information on the Ontario Research Fund and Early Research Award, visit the website.

Queen’s health researcher hits research milestone

Dr. Stephen Archer, Head of Medicine at Queen’s and Canada Research Chair in Mitochondrial Dynamics and Translational Medicine, achieves an h-index of >100.

[Photo of Dr. Stephen Archer]
Dr. Stephen Archer, Canada Research Chair in Mitochondrial Dynamics and Translational Medicine

In academia, there are many ways to measure research productivity and career success. One such quality indicator that is especially relevant in the biomedical sciences and other STEM fields is the h-index. Invented in 2005 by the American physicist Jorge Hirsch, the Hirsch-index or h-index, quantifies the citation impact of the publications of a scientist. Simply put, the h-index describes the number of papers a scholar has published (h) that have been cited at least h number of times. For example, an h-index of 10 indicates that, among all of their publications, a researcher has 10 publications that have received at least 10 citations each. Hirsch notes that, after 20 years of research, an h-index of 20 is good, 40 is outstanding, and 60 is truly exceptional.

Achieving a high h-index is no small feat and often correlates with other success indicators, such as holding positions at top institutions, being accepted for prestigious research fellowships, and winning top research prizes. Recently, Stephen Archer, clinician-scientist, Head of Medicine at Queen’s and Kingston Health Sciences Centre, and Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Mitochondrial Dynamics and Translational Medicine, hit the milestone of an h-index of >100 (101 with >42,000 citations total).   

"Reaching an h-index of 100 reminds me of the incredible experiences that I have had as a clinician-scientist since I published my first article in 1983," Dr. Archer says. "I have had the amazing privilege to lead a wonderful Department of Medicine, direct a state-of-the-art research center, the Queen’s Cardiopulmonary Unit (QCPU), care for cardiac patients, and perform research. I am grateful to all the people I have trained over the years, many of whom appear as co-authors on my articles. I am also grateful to my patients who inspire me to learn, discover, and invent. This milestone is truly a group achievement."          

With this h-index milestone, Dr. Archer joins several other Queen’s faculty who have also achieved an h-index of over 100, including Daren Heyland (128) and Ian Janssen (107).

An Illustrious Career

Dr. Archer, a cardiologist by training, completed medical school at Queen’s in 1981. After an internship at the Royal Columbian Hospital and 16 years as first a trainee and then a faculty member at the University of Minnesota, he returned to Canada where he served as Chief of Cardiology at the University of Alberta for 12 years. He then moved to the University of Chicago as Chief of Cardiology. In November 2012, he packed up his hockey bag and returned to Queen’s as Head of Medicine. He was named a tier one Canada Research Chair in 2017.

Throughout his illustrious career, Dr. Archer has coupled his clinical interests in pulmonary hypertension, persistent ductus arteriosus (PDA), and strategies for improving cardiovascular care, with a research focus on mechanisms of oxygen sensing, mitochondrial biology, and experimental therapeutics for pulmonary hypertension and cancer. He has made numerous research discoveries that can undisputedly be considered firsts. Notably, Dr. Archer and his team have identified the role of mitochondria, an energy-producing organelle in cells, as oxygen sensors in lung circulation and have described biochemical pathways that govern blood vessel constriction and relaxation. Furthermore, they have also shown that these oxygen-sensing mechanisms fail in various human diseases, including pulmonary hypertension, PDA, and lung cancer, just to name a few.

Dr. Archer has published over 220 peer-reviewed articles (nearly half of which have been cited at least 101 times, as indicated by his h-index). Additionally, he has received numerous honours and awards, including being selected as an inductee of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (2007), a Distinguished Scientist of the American Heart Association (2016), and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (2018), as well as receiving the Chicago American Heart Association Coeur d’Or Award (2013) for leading the creation of a heart attack care network in Chicago.

COVID Pivots

In recent months, Dr. Archer and his team have turned their attention to coronavirus, discovering it can attack mitochondria in lung cells, cause death of airway cells, and impair hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction. This discovery may help explain the low oxygen levels seen in COVID-19 pneumonia and play a role in developing new treatments for similar viral infections. Dr. Archer’s future work includes exploring the role of inflammation as a cause of right ventricular failure in pulmonary hypertension and manipulating mitochondrial dynamics to treat a range of medical conditions, including heart ischemia, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Archer’s already significant mark on his field is likely to gain traction with his h-index milestone. "A high h-index is tangible evidence of a prolific and impactful research career that continues to inspire further study," says Jane Philpott, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences. "My sincere congratulations to Dr. Archer on this significant achievement."

For more information about Dr. Archer's research, visit the Research@Queen's website.

Rethinking our approach to tackling plastic waste

Researchers, manufacturers, and governments are working toward a new paradigm, where plastics will be made from recycled or biodegradable components. (Unsplash / Erik McLean)

What can genomics teach us about the breakdown of plastic? To answer this question, a multidisciplinary team of Queen’s researchers made up of Laurence Yang (Chemical Engineering), David Zechel (Chemistry), George diCenzo (Biology), and James McLellan (Chemical Engineering) have received a $7.9 million grant from Genome Canada for a new project exploring a microbial platform for breaking down and valorizing waste plastic, which can then be repurposed to produce recycled products.

Plastic is a widely used cheap and effective way to store and transport goods. However, its popularity, especially for single-use products, has made it a pervasive environmental contaminant. In Canada, 2.8 million tons of plastic wind up in landfills every year and an additional 29,000 tons leak into our environment and oceans. Waste plastic has devastating environmental impacts, one of which includes the death of 100,000 marine mammals annually, through ingestion or entanglement. Despite this, demand continues to grow and Canadian plastic production is increasing, with an additional 4.8 million tons being produced every year.

Traditional methods of curbing plastic pollution are underutilized and only nine per cent of plastic is currently recycled worldwide. Consequently, academics, manufacturers, and governments are working toward a new paradigm, where plastics will be made from recycled or biodegradable components, facilitating transition from a linear use to a circular use model and better enabling a zero-plastic waste future.

To help drive this paradigm shift, Dr. Yang, his colleagues, and their team consisting of multiple universities, industry and municipal partners are working on an economically-viable innovation that harnesses genomics technologies to recover value from waste plastic. Affiliated with the Contaminants of Emerging Concern - Research Excellence Network (CEC-REN) at Queen’s, this project will use metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, whole-genome sequencing, and functional genomics to identify and engineer bacteria and enzymes that can break down plastics into recyclable components or into valuable fine chemicals that can be used for other purposes. A secondary aim of this project involves investigating the impact of these newly-developed plastic biotechnologies on the environment, economy, and society as a whole.

“Our team of 21 investigators from six universities are developing a systems approach to tackling plastic waste: from genomes to new enzymatic processes, fully integrated with environmental, social, economic, and policy research to facilitate uptake,” says Dr. Yang, Principal Investigator on the project. “Our open science framework will allow us to rapidly share knowledge with diverse private and public sector partners, as we collectively innovate toward a zero-waste future where plastics benefit society without causing a negative impact on the environment.”

Plastic biotechnologies could help revolutionize Canadian plastic production and use. It has been estimated that diverting 90 per cent of our national waste plastic from landfills to recycling can reduce 1.8 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents per year in greenhouse gas emissions, save $500 million per year in costs, and create 42,000 jobs in new industries. Globally, a circular economy for plastics is projected to lead to billions of dollars in savings. An environmentally sustainable future may not be one that eliminates the use of plastics altogether, but rather one where plastics are deliberately chosen and circulated as resources, not discarded as waste.

The project funding was announced today as part of an investment of over $60 million from Genome Canada, provincial and federal partners, universities, and industry collaborators for eight large-scale applied research projects across Canada. The projects will harness genomics research and technologies for natural resources conservation, environmental protection, and sustainability. For more on the announcement, visit the website.

The project, titled Open Plastics, is affiliated with the Contaminants of Emerging Concern - Research Excellence Network at Queen's
The project, titled Open Plastics, is affiliated with the Contaminants of Emerging Concern - Research Excellence Network at Queen's.

Belief in touch as salvation was stronger than fear of contagion in the Italian Renaissance

A sculpture of two saints meeting and embracing embodies the importance of touch in Renaissance culture as a form of devotion and ultimately a way to access the divine. (Renaissance Polychrome Sculpture in Tuscany database), Author provided

 

In 1399, a crowd gathered in the Tuscan city of Pisa, even though people understood that a plague ravaging the area was contagious. Devotees travelled from town to town and carried a crucifix — a sculpture of Jesus on the cross — which the crowd longed to touch.

Authorities tried to ban the group but had to bow to public pressure. A witness exclaimed, “Blessed is he who can touch it!” Those who could not reach the sculpture pelted it with offerings, including candles, so that these objects could touch it by proxy.

That year, in the midst of a plague, often hundreds of people gathered and fought to touch and kiss crucifixes. The belief in touch as salvation was stronger than the fear of contagion.

As we are all too aware now, after over a year of social distancing due to COVID-19, touch was and is a much-desired privilege. In the Italian Renaissance, people longed to touch not only each other, but also religious sculptures — touch was a form of devotion.

Accessing the sacred

Statue bust of a woman's head and shoulders.
Sculpture of St. Anastasia with receptacle embedded in the chest that contains a relic of the saint. Made by the workshop of Matteo Civitale in the 1490s, housed in the Museo di Santa Maria Novella. (Renaissance Polychrome Sculpture in Tuscany database)

Renaissance Italy was home to Jews and Muslims, as well as Christians.

For Christians in the Renaissance, objects could be holy, and so touching them was a way to access the sacred. The cult of relics illustrates this. Relics are physical remains of a saint, either of the saint’s body (such as bones) or of something the saint touched.

These holy physical things are housed in reliquaries, containers to protect and display relics. In the Italian Renaissance, reliquaries took the form of naturalistic sculptures that seemed to bring the saint back to life.

Pilgrims travelled sometimes hundreds of miles on foot to reach these relics — and, for those who could afford it, buy a “contact relic,” which was made by submerging the relic in oil and then dipping a cloth into that oil. By touching that cloth, perhaps wearing it as a talisman, the believer was a part of a chain of physical contact that led to the divine.

Others touched reliquaries. A relic of St. Anastasia is embedded in a glass covered receptacle buried in the chest of a lively, blushing sculpture, so that the faithful could see it. The lucky few could reach forward and touch the jewel-like container, as the martyr would seem to look with heavily lidded eyes, almost bemused at this rather intimate gesture.

Sculptures with joints

Sculpture of Christ on the cross showing arm hinges.
Movable joints can be seen in this crucifix, which allowed devotees to take the figure of Christ down and embrace and kiss it. Sculpted by Donatello, c. 1408, housed in Santa Croce, Florence. (Renaissance Polychrome Sculpture in Tuscany database)

People also longed to touch sculptures that did not have relics, including life-sized crucifixes, which in the Renaissance were sculptures of a muscular Jesus, whose body is covered only by a small loincloth. Before Michelangelo, crucifixes were the public nudes in Renaissance cities. Many crucifixes hung high in churches, and Renaissance writers describe saints miraculously elevated, so that they could embrace and kiss the sculpted body of Christ.

Some sculptures have joints in the shoulders, so that at the annual commemoration of Christ’s death (on Good Friday) devotees could take part in a sacred drama, in which the figure of Christ was taken down from the cross and mourned, wrapped in a shroud and placed in a tomb.

During this re-enactment, a lucky few believers could embrace and kiss the sculpture and feel as if they had the ultimate privilege of touching Jesus’ body, reciting the prayer: “I, a sinner, am not worthy to touch you.”

In the home

A woman in a headcovering embraces a baby.
Sculpture of the Virgin Mary holding Jesus, originally kept in a home for private devotion. Made in c. 1400-1450 by Lorenzo Ghiberti, Filippo Brunelleschi or Nanni di Banco, and currently housed in the Museo Bandini in Fiesole. (Renaissance Polychrome Sculpture database)

Wealthy families had sculptures that they could touch at home, such as small crucifixes, which often have feet worn down by repeated touch so that the toes are barely visible.

Young women getting married or becoming nuns were given painted wooden life-sized sculptures of baby Jesus or another infant saint, which they would tend as if they were real infants, dressing them in luxurious clothing.

Meditational handbooks told women to imagine that they were fondling baby Jesus.

Anyone who could afford it would have an image of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus in the bedroom. These sculptures place emphasis on touch, as Mary and Jesus’ limbs are gently intertwined.

But wealthy parents rarely touched their children – infants were sent away to live with a wetnurse until about the age of three, and handbooks on child rearing warned parents not to embrace their children when they returned home. So, in some cases, mothers may have touched sculptures of babies more than they touched their own children.

Interacting with sculptures

Though devotional touch was a privilege for the wealthy, practices of interacting with sculptures as if they were bodies of flesh and blood cut across social classes.

A pair of life-sized painted terracotta sculptures of the Virgin Mary and her husband Joseph watched over a stone crib at Florence’s orphanage, the Ospedale degli Innocenti. Abandoned infants were placed temporarily in the care of these sculpted parents.

A woman in a simple red dress with hands folded in prayer next to a kneeling man.
Babies abandoned at Florence’s orphanage were placed in a stone crib between these statues of the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph. Made by Marco della Robbia in c. 1500, and now housed in the Museo degli Innocenti in Florence. (Renaissance Polychrome Sculpture in Tuscany database), Author provided

The figure of Mary was sculpted only with a simple red under dress, with no cloak or veil, and so was likely dressed in fabric clothing, probably donated by a local woman. Women would have also dressed and undressed this sculpture and others like it as an act of devotion, as it would be scandalous to have a man be so intimate with a sculpture of the Virgin Mary.

Sculpted bodies inhabited cities

Sculpted bodies inhabited Renaissance cities along with living people, filling Renaissance churches, watching over the streets and gracing the bedrooms of even moderately wealthy patricians.

In a society that was ambivalent about the proprieties of touching living flesh, touching sculpted bodies could offer comfort or even salvation.

Renaissance philosophers and clergymen argued that touch was sensual and earthy and that supposedly weak-minded women and children were more in need of such physical aids in their devotions than educated men.

But ultimately, touching art was a privilege, a way of touching the divine.The Conversation

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Una Roman D'Elia, Professor, Art History and Art Conservation, Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

Extreme heat waves are putting lakes and rivers in hot water this summer

 

Trout swim in water
River fish like trout swim close to the river surface as water temperatures rise. (Unsplash / John Werner)

Extreme heat waves have blanketed the Pacific Northwest, Siberia, Greece, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and other regions this summer, with temperatures approaching and exceeding 50 C.

As temperatures near outdoor survival thresholds, individuals who do not have easy access to air conditioning or cooling stations, or are unable to flee, may succumb to heat waves.

These climate extremes are becoming more frequent. But as tragic as they are to human health, they are only part of a larger climate catastrophe story — the wide-scale damage to the ecosystems that people depend upon, including agriculture, fisheries and freshwater.

Most wildlife cannot seek refuge from extreme heat. An estimated 1 billion marine animals may have perished during the heatwave this past June in the Pacific Northwest alone.

Fisheries in hot water

Many people may perceive lakes and rivers to be refuges from unprecedented heat, but freshwater systems are no less sensitive. Heat waves have killed thousands of fish in Alaska as temperatures exceeded the lethal limit for coldwater fishes.

This year’s hot and dry summer could collapse the salmon fishery in the Sacramento River in California. In British Columbia and Yukon, salmon numbers have declined by as much as 90 per cent and have led the federal government to shut down 60 per cent of the commercial and First Nations communal salmon fishery.

Coldwater fish, such as trout and salmon, are being squeezed out of their cool, well-oxygenated, deep-water habitat. As water contains less oxygen at higher water temperatures, this forces the fish to move into nearshore regions. While these shallower waters may be better oxygenated, they are even warmer and may exceed thermal tolerances of coldwater species.

By the same token, invasive fishes such as smallmouth bass are thriving in warmer temperatures and displacing native Canadian fishes like walleye and lake trout.

The dry bed of an evaporated pond in Arctic Canada.
Beach Ridge Pond, from Ellesmere Island in Nunavut, now completely evaporates in the summer because of accelerated climate warming. (MSV Douglas), Author provided

Water is on the move — too little and too much

The combination of a warming climate, drought and human activities, including irrigation for agriculture, can have drastic consequences for both the quality and quantity of our freshwater supply — ultimately leading to shortages of potable water.

By the end of the century, evaporation is projected to increase by 16 per cent globally. Lakes closer to the equator, which are already experiencing the highest evaporation rates, are expected to experience the greatest increase.

In regions with seasonal ice cover, evaporation rates can increase with warmer air temperatures and when ice cover is shorter or lost completely. This essentially “lifts the lid” on a lake during winter and could potentially lead to year-round evaporation, accelerating the rate at which water is lost. Salts and nutrients are concentrated in the remaining water, leading to further decline in water quality.

Potable water in countries with limited freshwater are seeing their supply dwindle even further, including the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan and Lake Chad in central Africa. Lake Poopó was once the second-largest lake in Bolivia with an area of 3,000 square kilometres, but dried up completely in 2015. Even in water-rich areas like the Arctic, shallow ponds, including some ponds formed when ice-rich permafrost thaws, are already drying out.

On the other hand, ice-dammed glacial lakes in both polar and alpine regions are sensitive to outburst floods as dams melt, potentially flooding downstream ecosystems and the communities that depend on them, including population-rich areas such as in the Himalayas and Andes. Climate change is a crisis multiplier and threatens to make water scarcity or flooding an impending reality for increasingly more people.

A lake near Parry Sound, Ont., covered in algal bloom.
An algal bloom in a lake near Parry Sound, Ont., located on the Canadian Shield. (Andrew Paterson/Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks), Author provided

Algal blooms on the rise

Warmer summers, coupled with intense storms that deliver large quantities of nutrients and pollutants in bursts, are creating the perfect conditions for earlier, more frequent and intense algal blooms. Harmful toxin-producing cyanobacteria (blue-green algae that frequently form floating surface blooms) can lead to mass mortality of fish and birds, as well as pose a serious health threat for cattle, pets, wildlife and humans.

In 2014, over half a million people could not use their water supply in Toledo, Ohio, because of a toxic algal bloom in Lake Erie. Lake Taihu, China, which supplies water to 40 million people often has blooms so large that they can be detected from space and leave millions of people in a drinking water supply crisis.

In Ontario, there are now reports of algal blooms in formerly pristine northern lakes occurring as late as November. Study after study now links warmer conditions and the associated lake changes as important contributing factors to toxic blooms.

Rapid change requires rapid responses

Climatic extremes are now occurring more frequently and with greater intensity than were predicted by even the most pessimistic climate models. We are already crossing ecosystem thresholds and tipping points that were not even projected to occur until the end of this century.

Climatic extremes will not appear gradually, but impacts will be felt quickly and often without warning, leaving little time for adaptation. We need to immediately develop and implement evidence-based climate adaptation plans, so that we are prepared for the inevitable emergencies already underway, including massive wildfires, coastal and local flooding, disruption of food supplies and freshwater shortages.

The apocalyptic future, once portrayed only in books and movies, is becoming our reality and the time for assessing our options is running out. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Human innovation and originality, coupled with a sense of urgency, are required to lessen future impacts.

Without mitigation efforts, we must prepare for the fallout of the developing climate catastrophe and protect our citizens and ecosystems.The Conversation

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Sapna Sharma, Associate Professor and York University Research Chair in Global Change Biology, York University, Canada; Iestyn Woolway, Research Fellow, Climate Office, European Space Agency, and John P. Smol, Distinguished University Professor and Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change, Queen's University, Ontario

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

Queen’s students awarded national scholarships

Eight doctoral students earn prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships for exceptional scholarly achievement and leadership skills.

Collage of Vanier scholars
Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship recipients (clockwise from top left): Ryan Kirkpatrick, Emmanuelle LeBlanc, Isabelle Grenier-Pleau, Shannon Clarke, Stephanie Woolridge, Saskia de Wildt, Maram Assi, and Hannah Hunter.

Eight Queen’s students have earned Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships, one of Canada’s most prestigious awards for doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows. Jointly funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), these scholarships recognize individuals who have demonstrated exceptional scholarly achievement and leadership skills in a variety of fields. Scholars receive $50,000 per year for three years of study and research.

“We are honoured and excited to host this year’s Vanier recipients, scholars who have left their mark on their respective fields by ascending to new heights of academic excellence and leadership achievement,” says Fahim Quadir, Vice-Provost and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. “Queen’s is delighted to play its part in supporting our Vanier scholars by providing them with new opportunities to refine their research skills, advance their academic and professional goals, and engage with our vast network of researchers spanning the globe. I look forward to getting to know our scholars and learning of their plans to continue working towards the betterment of society during their time with us and beyond.”

This year’s recipients span numerous specialties and departments. They include:

CIHR-Funded Projects:

Emmanuelle LeBlanc (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) - Developing glycan-based antiviral prophylactics to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections

Ryan Kirkpatrick (Neuroscience) - Detecting eating disorder biomarkers in youth via video-based eye tracking

Stephanie Woolridge (Psychology) - Improving diagnostic accuracy in early psychosis: Differentiating the neuropsychological profiles of cannabis-induced and primary psychotic disorders in a 12-month follow-up study

NSERC-Funded Projects:

Isabelle Grenier-Pleau (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) - Investigating the role of extracellular vesicles in hematopoietic stem cell maintenance

Maram Assi (Computing) - Developing an intelligent bug fix recommender system

SSHRC-Funded Projects:

Saskia de Wildt (Environmental Studies) - Exploring polar bear research as ethical space, practice, and process of engagement

Shannon Clarke (Geography and Planning) - New spaces, new subjectivities: Caribbean women in Canada and Black diasporic productions of space

Hannah Hunter (Geography and Planning) - Listening to birds at the end of the world: A historical geography of bird sound recording and a sound art project for human-avian futures

For more information about the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship Program, visit the website.

Four ways companies can avoid post-pandemic employee turnover

Employee wrapping a package at his desk.
Some workers may be thinking of jumping ship once the COVID-19 pandemic ends. Here’s how organizations can build morale and stop valued employees from leaving. (Unsplash / Bench Accounting)

With pandemic-related lockdowns being lifted around the world, businesses are announcing plans to bring employees back into the office.

The Conversation Canada logoConsidering the widespread isolation and Zoom fatigue of the past year, one might expect employees to welcome a return to the office. Instead, they’re resisting. In fact, early reports are suggesting that many employees would rather quit their jobs rather than return to the office. Why?

Reasons for employee resistance

The COVID-19 pandemic has had big implications for the relationship between employees and employers.

For one, it’s revealed how many employers profoundly mistrust their employees’ ability to get their work done without in-person supervision. It’s no wonder that when faced with a hot post-pandemic economic recovery, employees are choosing to find a new employer over returning to a boss and organization that lacked trust in them during the pandemic.

Second, working from home has revealed that employees can have it all and they don’t want to lose this privilege. A recent survey showed that almost half of employees would look for a new employer rather than give up the ability to work from home at least part of the time.

The ability to pop out for a spin class in the middle of the afternoon or pick up the kids from school early reflect the type of flexibility that many employees simply don’t want to give up. They’re resisting a return to the nine-to-five facetime culture of pre-pandemic times.

Third, firms have been inept at maintaining a cohesive workplace culture during the pandemic. Many employees report feeling “left behind” by bosses who did not provide adequate support during the pandemic. A recent survey by an employee engagement company suggests that 46 per cent of employees felt less connected to their employer during the pandemic, while 42 per cent say company culture has become worse during the crisis.

This isn’t surprising because research has shown that, if not managed properly, employees in virtual teams can feel “shunned and left out.” The new “work from anywhere” movement is allowing employees to choose flexibility over allegiance to employers they have become disconnected from over the last year and a half.

A woman slumps on her laptop
Some workers on virtual teams report feeling shunned and left out. (Anna Tarazevich/Pexels)

What can employers do about it?

High employee turnover is unwelcome news for employers. Given the high costs of employee training, keeping a good employee is far cheaper than hiring a new one. Her are four proposals for employers to stave off employee turnover during the return to in-person work:

  1. Offer flexibility The major reason employees want to continue working remotely is flexibility and the ability to improve their work-life balance. While there are undeniable benefits for in-person work like spontaneous interactions, better supervision and more opportunities for mentoring, they don’t negate the advantages of working from home. Employers must consider the possibility of allowing employees to work from home at least part-time, moving towards a hybrid workplace that allows both in-person and remote working opportunities.

  2. Reinforce the best of your workplace culture The move towards a hybrid workplace creates the challenge of fostering a workplace culture that is consistent online and in-person. What matters to your organization? If inclusion is a priority, remote work can provide the opportunity to bring in hires from around the world that otherwise would not be available. If training and mentorship are most important, think about how online tools can be used to foster these types of relationships. Whatever it is that makes an organization unique should be fundamental to the practices that underpin the return to work.

  3. Show employees you care The post-pandemic economy is revving up. With many new opportunities for jobs both at home and abroad, employees will be able to choose where they want to work. The time is now for employers to show employees how they appreciate the resilience and flexibility they’ve shown during the pandemic. Supervisors should also meet with their employees and discuss their personal and professional goals. Retaining employees will depend on the ability to keep them motivated and engaged. This can include offering employees financial incentives while also offering the chance to get involved on new projects or on new work teams.

  4. Keep tabs on top performers The most expensive employees to replace (and the most in demand) will be top performers. Employers should hone in on these individuals and make sure that they are being offered the growth opportunities and recognition they desire.

Hopefully, the post-pandemic return to work will provide an opportunity for employers and employees to reconsider their relationships with one another. This is the time for a “new normal” that provides employees with opportunities for respect and empowerment in the workplace.The Conversation

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Erica Pimentel, Assistant Professor, Smith School of Business, Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

How to create effective, engaged workplace teams after the COVID-19 pandemic

For workplace teams returning to the office post-pandemic, it will still be important to protect the benefits of remote work: uninterrupted time for strategically important projects, and respect for personal preferences. (Pixabay)

Well into the pandemic’s second year, we are beginning to see light on the horizon. We’re not out of the woods here in Canada. As some areas of the country continue to struggle to contain the virus, others are optimistic due to lowering case counts thanks to restrictions and lockdown measures.

Ontario — the country’s largest province by population — is now in the first step of its reopening, and officials have said the majority of those who want to receive a vaccine could be fully immunized by the end of the summer.

The rolling lockdowns and public health restrictions of the pandemic response meant a massive shift to remote and virtual work for many workplaces. As we look towards and plan for the post-pandemic future, businesses and organizations need to thoughtfully consider what the future of work looks like for them.

They will need to reflect on their operations pre-pandemic, consider what they learned from the disruption of the crisis, and ask themselves: How can we build back better?

Structure shift

Recent decades have seen a shift in the structure of businesses and organizations, away from hierarchical models in favour of cross-functional and, at times, self-managing networks of teams. In fact, a 2016 survey found the majority of large corporations rely on interdisciplinary and cross-functional teams. In 2019, 31 per cent of respondents said that most or almost all work is performed in teams.

For many of these organizations, the pandemic saw these teams transition from in-person work to remote interactions via video-conferencing services like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype.

Many appreciated the comfort and autonomy inherent in working from home, but the erosion of work-life balance and social interaction has caused challenges.

As we come out of the pandemic, workplace teams will need an environment that retains the experience of autonomy while also providing a sense of belonging. Employees should be free to decide where they want to work and when they want to work whenever possible. But we must also address the negative impact of isolation — loneliness, fatigue or even depression, all of which have been frequently reported during the pandemic.

Five women at a desk have a conversation.
Effective workplace teams will be critical to building back better. (Piqsels)

Research on workplace teams finds that autonomy can in fact co-exist with a sense of belonging and cohesion. For this to be achieved, organizations need to find a balance, and need to organize teams according to these structural considerations:

• Teams have a strong leader, or they can feature shared leadership.

• Teams have clearly defined task interdependencies and interfaces among team members, or team members can perform their work largely in isolation.

• Teams have the same goals and rewards for all members, or they can offer individualized goals and rewards.

• Teams communicate virtually, or they can communicate so face-to-face.

• Teams have a shared history and aspirations, or they operate for a limited time, after which they disband.

A strong leader, alongside clearly defined task interdependencies, focuses on the team as a whole, whereas virtual teamwork and individual rewards emphasize the individual team member.

Combining features of teamwork that promote autonomy with other features that foster cohesiveness and a sense of belonging is likely the best path forward.

Emphasize shared goals

As long as employees continue to operate in a virtual setting, it’s important for leaders to define shared goals and rewards. Teams must share a vision of the future that complements the larger degree of autonomy they’ve experienced through virtual teamwork.

Focusing on elements of teamwork that bring team members closer together should not be left to chance. As some organizations learned during the pandemic, scheduling social hours can replace the spontaneous conversations at the water cooler. A book club can replace the informal learning over a lunch chat. A fireside Zoom chat on company values and goals can replace an in-person town hall.

But post-pandemic, few organizations will maintain an all-virtual presence. Many will move towards a hybrid model. For those teams returning to the office, it will still be important to protect the benefits of remote work: uninterrupted time for strategically important projects, and respect for personal preferences.

The pandemic has also almost eliminated a troublesome feature of organizational life: presenteeism, or showing up to work when sick. We must not go backwards in this regard. Workers must protect themselves and their team members from the consequences of illness.

Post-pandemic, the world of work will probably never be the same again. And that’s probably a good thing. We now have an opportunity to make it better.The Conversation

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Matthias Spitzmuller, Associate Professor and Distinguished Professor of Organizational Behaviour, Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

Advancing the research agenda

Kimberly Woodhouse reflects on her time as Vice-Principal (Research) and how Queen’s has changed since she arrived.

Photograph of Kimberly Woodhouse
Kimberly Woodhouse's term as Vice-Principal (Research) ends on June 30 after three years in the role.

Queen’s is home to a dynamic community of researchers spanning all faculties and disciplines, and the  Vice-Principal (Research) portfolio helps support and connect them while also seeking to enhance Queen’s profile as one of Canada’s top research-intensive universities. Since 2018, Kimberly Woodhouse has served as Queen’s Vice-Principal (Research). On June 30, her term ends, and she returns full-time to her role as professor of chemical engineering. As Vice-Principal Woodhouse prepares for the transition, the Queen’s Gazette connected with her to hear her thoughts on her time in that role and what’s next in her career.

What are you most proud of during your time overseeing the Vice-Principal (Research) portfolio for the past three years?

First of all, I’d like to say it’s been a privilege to serve the Queen’s community the past three years. And I want to thank all the different teams I’ve worked with across the university to move the research agenda forward.

There are many things that I am proud of, but a few specifically come to mind. One is the way in which the research portfolio has engaged with early-career researchers. We have restructured to support our new hires in their research programs and to get them up and running as quickly as possible.  Their performance has been exceptional, and I believe the portfolio has contributed to the excellent success in the New Frontiers granting competition, which emphasizes interdisciplinary research.

The second initiative of particular note is the increase in the number of startups, new companies, and partnerships through the many FedDev programs, in particular the WE-CAN program. WE-CAN has done outstanding work in reaching out to the Kingston and eastern Ontario entrepreneurial community, particularly women, Indigenous women, and BIPOC entrepreneurs. This programming has rapidly accelerated over the last few years.

What advice do you have for early-career researchers who are starting down their own paths?

My advice is to engage as quickly as possible with the support systems in place in the Vice-Principal (Research) portfolio as they start to write their grant proposals. I also suggest they reach out to senior faculty members, particularly those who have been successful in receiving external funding, for mentorship and guidance. Along those lines, I want to thank the senior researchers across the university who have given so generously of their time to mentor our new researchers and to take part in our internal grants programs. We have hired many new faculty members over the past several years, and our senior faculty members have been instrumental in getting them up to speed.

As early-career researchers get more experience, I also suggest they find opportunities to get involved in grants panels so they can see examples of outstanding proposals.

They should also think about the broader research community around the world and who they would like to get to know and how they might want to work with them. Attending international conferences and seeking international funding opportunities are great ways to make these connections. It’s important to consciously network.

How has Queen’s changed in the time you’ve been here?

Since I came here in 2007, I would say that Queen’s has more strongly embraced research. Queen’s has always been a very strong research institution with very strong researchers, but there’s a greater recognition now that it’s part of the fabric of the university, particularly in the last few years.

Queen’s has also begun to understand the need to break down some institutional barriers in order to facilitate interdisciplinary research. There are now more opportunities for people to meet others from across the university and have more inter-faculty conversations around research.

Queen’s has also become less insular and more aware of the opportunities for the university to make strong positive impacts both nationally and internationally.

Now that your term as Vice-Principal (Research) is coming to an end, what’s next for you?

I’ll be on administrative leave, and I’ll be going back to the lab as a professor of chemical engineering. I’m looking forward to working more closely with graduate students and other faculty members.

I have two areas of research I’ll be focusing on. I’ll be working on projects in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. I’m also working with an interdisciplinary group on health quality research.

Again it has been a great privilege to serve the research community over these last three years and a special thanks to all the members of the portfolio and across the research community who have worked so hard to move the research agenda of the university during these last three years.

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